At the age of nine he entered the Lyceum of Wertheim and was graduated in his eighteenth year, having received the first prize for scholarship each year during his course. In October 1861 he entered the University of Jena and two years later he entered the University of Heidelberg (M. D. , 1865) where he was soon appointed first assistant. He worked under Helmholz in physiology, Knapp in ophthalmology, and Friedrich in surgery, under whom he received the training that was to fit him for the field in which he became widely known in later life – plastic surgery of the eye.
In the fall of 1865 he received his state license to practise medicine, but he remained in Heidelberg as first assistant in the surgical clinic. After serving as surgeon during the Austro-Prussian War, he went to Berlin in 1867 to study ophthalmology under Albrecht von Graefe and in 1868 he went to Vienna for further work in ophthalmology and otology under Professors Arlt, Politzer, and Jaeger. In August 1868 he accepted the position of first assistant to Professor Knapp in the eye clinic in Heidelberg. The following year he went to London, where he did further work in the eye clinics, and from London he went to Edinburgh to acquaint himself with the work of Joseph Lister who was then just introducing his antiseptic agents into surgery.
Returning to London, he met a friend who persuaded him to settle in America, and later in the same year, 1869, he arrived in Chicago, where he opened an office on Clark Street and established himself as a general surgeon. In 1871 he decided to specialize in ophthalmology and otology and was appointed oculist and aurist to the Cook County Hospital, Chicago. He resigned as surgeon to the Cook County Hospital in 1876 and accepted a similar position at the Illinois Charitable Eye and Ear Infirmary. Two years later he performed for the first time the plastic operation for the entropion (described in the Archives of Ophthalmology, vol. VIII, no. 2, 1879). He also performed the first recorded mastoid operation in Chicago. In 1898 he was appointed to the chair of ophthalmology and otology at Rush Medical College and of ophthalmology at the Presbyterian Hospital, Chicago, which position he held until his death.
He married, in 1873, Emma Rosenmerkel, the daughter of a pioneer druggist and chemist of Chicago.